Tony Birch, writer & academic
Tony Birch was expelled from two high schools and worked various jobs before completing his HSC at Broadmeadows TAFE. He went on to get a Masters and PhD at the University of Melbourne, worked as a curator at the Melbourne Museum, taught at universities, and published 3 novels and two short story collections. In 2017, he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University.
Did you or someone you know get their start at TAFE? Send us a photo and the story so we can add to the gallery!
Lidia Thorpe, politician
Lidia Thorpe made history last year when she won the Victorian state by-election in the division of Northcote. She is the first Aboriginal woman elected to Victorian state parliament. Lidia studied at Preston TAFE, now part of Melbourne Polytechnic
Deng Thiak Adut,
lawyer & author
Deng_Thiak_Adut.jpgDeng came to national prominence after featuring in an ad for Western Sydney University. The ad told Deng's remarkable story from a child soldier in Sudan to a law student at Western Sydney University. Prior to studying law, Deng completed his HSC and then an Advanced Diploma in Accounting at TAFE. Deng now works as a lawyer. He has written his biography Songs of a War Boy and was awarded the 2017 NSW Australian of the Year.
Mervyn Bishop, photographer
Mervyn studied photography at Sydney Technical College. His career has included many achievements including Australian News Photographer of the year in 1971. He is best known for his iconic photo of Gough Whitlam pouring soil into the hands of Vincent Lingiari.
Catherine O'Donnell, visual artist
Catherine O'Donnell is a visual artist whose practice is "about the beauty of the uncelebrated and ordinary." Initially she worked as a lab technician, but after her youngest child went to school she went to TAFE and completed a Certificate IV and Diploma of Fine Arts. She has exhibited extensively in Australia and was selected for Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial in 2016.
After a disrupted and difficult childhood and adolescence, Vincent Shin had a low ATAR score, but aspirations to be a lawyer. He first completed a Legal Services qualification at TAFE (Victoria University), and then went on to complete his Bachelor of Law. Vincent is now Australia's first school based lawyer, helping students and families in the western suburbs of Melbourne with diverse legal problems from workplace issues, to migration, to family violence.
J'Aton Couture, designers
J'Aton Couture is a Melbourne-based couture house established by Jacpb Luppino and Anthony Pittorino. Both are graduates of the Melbourne College of Textiles which was subsumed into RMIT. J'Aton has been worn by celebrities like Rebecca Judd right through to Beyonce
Romance Was Born, fashion label
Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett, the team behind cult fashion label Romance Was Born, met at TAFE while they were both studying fashion design at Ultimo's Fashion Design Studio. Their designs are stocked internationally and have been seen on the likes of Tavi Gevinson and Cate Blanchett
Alex Perry, fashion designer
Alex Perry graduated from East Sydney College Fashion Design Studio in 1984. He is a prominent figure in the fashion industry in Australia. As well as his own label, Alex has appeared on Australia's Next Top Model and Project Runway Australia. He has also opened a boutique hotel in Brisbane
Katheryn Leopoldseder, jeweller
Katheryn is an internationally recognised contemporary jeweller, artist and designer. She works from the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne creating handmade jewellery. You can check out her work here. Katheryn studied gold and silversmithing at RMIT.
Matteo Pignatelli, restaurateur
Over 20 years ago, Matteo opened Melbourne fine dining icon, Matteo's. After working in his parents' takeaway shop, and a stint as a waiter, Matteo completed a Diploma of Business in Hospitality Management in 1989 at the William Angliss Institute
"TAFE gave me a thirst for learning...it unlocked my creativeness and really got me passionate about what I am doing right now. And if it wasn't for TAFE, I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in; I wouldn't have had the experiences I've had. TAFE offers so much."
Akira studied at East Sydney College.
Of his fashion head teacher Nicholas Huxley Akira commented "When I first met Nicholas, he told me I had talent and kept insisting it was a fact. His belief in me meant a lot."
Akira's advice: "Don't give up. Keep going. Take the appropriate courses you need. Learn your craft!"
Vernon Ah Kee, artist
Vernon Ah Kee is a member of the Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Yidinji and Gugu Yimithirr peoples. He is best known for his large-scale drawings of his ancestors. Vernon represented Australia at the 2009 Venice Biennale in the group exhibition Once Removed. He attended TAFE in Cairns.
Kevin Kitchener was one of the first Aboriginal members of the NSW Bar and a long-time champion of justice for Aboriginal people. After leaving school early, Kevin completed his HSC at Grafton TAFE before completing his law degree at UNSW.
Anna Howard, cinematographer
Anna studied cinematography at North Sydney TAFE. She has gone on to work in films and television in both Australia and internationally. Anna's work includes Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger; South Solitary; Girl in a Mirror; and several episodes of ABC's Rake.
Whilst studying music at Southbank Institute of TAFE, Amy wrote a song and recruited her brother George for harmonies - and the band "Sheppard" was born. Now with 6 members they recently enjoyed 3 weeks at number one on the ARIA charts with their second single "Geronimo".
Food stylist, author and magazine editor Donna Hay kicked off her varied career path with a home economics course at TAFE. She went on to work in the test kitchen at the Australian Women's Weekly and is now one of the most recognised names in Australian cookery.
Faine is best known as an ABC radio broadcaster. When off air he is a car enthusiast. In 2005 he undertook study in mechanical engineering technology at NMIT to be able to machine parts for the old cars he works on in his spare time.
Tracey is an internationally renowned artist. Her works are held in the collections of many major galleries including the Tate, the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, and the National Gallery of Australia. Tracey studied at the Queensland College of Art in the early 80s.
Susan Kiefel was made Australia's first female Chief Justice of the High Court in January 2017. Prior to studying law, Justice Kiefel undertook secretarial training at Kangaroo Point Technical College. She also completed high school at night school whilst working.
"My lecturer, Peter Travis, told me that if I was serious about clay, I had to go to TAFE. That's where all the serious potters were. Ever since I have continued to study ceramics and pottery at a TAFE wherever I have lived."
Gerda van Hamond, weaver
Gerda began her art education at TAFE in Warrnambool. She has studied both tapestry and painting. Gerda works on a large loom to create large, colourful tapestries. Internationally renound, Gerda's work is held in private collections around the world, and major art galleries.
Alick Tipoti is a world renowned professional artist from Badu Island in the Torres Strait. Alick completed an Advanced Diploma at TAFE on Thursday Island, before continuing his studies on the mainland. Check out his amazing rooftop installation in Morocco here.
Brad Eastman (Beastman) is a multi-disciplinary artist who studied Graphic Design at Hornsby TAFE. "I was always into art and drawing from a young age, so it was a natural progression for me to study graphic design at TAFE straight out of high school."
Chris Cheney studied jazz at the Box Hill Institute of TAFE in the early 90s. He went on to front the successful Australian band The Living End. Career highlights have included an APRA Award in 2009 for song of the year, as well as a string of Top 20 hits in the 90s and 00s.
The Fashion Design Studio at Sydney TAFE is recognised as one of the premier design studios in Australia and around the world. It's alumni looks like a who's who list of Australian fashion, and includes the acclaimed designer, Lisa Ho.
Scott Cam is now best known as a television personality from hit TV shows Backyard Blitz and The Block. Prior to his television career, Scott was a carpenter and did his apprenticeship through
Barry completed a Diploma of Architectural Technology at TAFE and worked as an architectural draftsman for the best part of a decade. He is now pursuing a career in illustration. His first exhibition in 2011 explored mundance household objects and rituals. This has been echoed in his Beers in The Sun series.
After leaving school at 15, Paul Keating later went back to complete his HSC at TAFE. He went on to become an MP, Treasurer and then Prime Minister of Australia.
Brett Graham began his cooking career at the Hunter Institute of TAFE in Newcastle. He is now Head Chef at The Ledbury in London. The Ledbury has been awarded two Michelin stars and is ranked number 10 in the world’s top 50 restaurants.
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
An Australian icon whose achievements include the first trans-pacific flights between the US and Australia, the first flights between Australia and New Zealand, as well as serving in both the army and airforce in WWI. Sir Kingsford Smith studied at the Sydney Technical College, now the Sydney Institute.
Jamie studied CIV in Horticulture & Landscape Design at TAFE. Since then he has become a TV presenter, and won a number of awards including at the Chelsea Flower Show. "Ryde TAFE has produced some of Australia's top horticulturalists, and their reputation speaks for itself...no regrets and nothing but positive memories of my time at Ryde TAFE."
Rone studied at TAFE for two years before commencing at RMIT. Originally working mostly with posters and stencils, Rone is now mostly focused on large scale paintings. Hi biggest work to date is the 8 storey mural at pop up restaurant Rue and Co in Collins Street, Melbourne.
Kurt is best known for his sporting prowess as a Newcastle Knight, but has also studied butchery at TAFE. Just another example of TAFE providing education and skills throughout a person's life and career changes!
Rebecca Calrk studied Fashion, textiles and Garment Construction at the Moreton Institute of TAFE in Queensland. You may have seen Rebecca's work in the recent film The Dressmaker where she worked on the underpinnings and corsetry.
Former student and current teacher at Sydney TAFE's Design Centre, Chris was one of a clutch of TAFE graduates who worked on 2014's The Lego Movie. Chris is obviously a proud product of the TAFE system, encouraging young animators to study at "a respected school" and teaching at TAFE "to pass my knowledge on".
Jordan studied fashion design at Ultimo TAFE in Sydney. He has gone on to work for labels such as Alexander McQueen, Dior homme and Ksubi. Jodan launched his first jewellery collection at London Fashion Week in 2010. He continues to design jewellery and sculpture.
Indie darlings Augie March formed when Adam Donovan, Edmondo Ammendola and David Williams met at NMIT (now Melbourne Polytechnic) and joined forced with university students Glenn Richards and Kiernan Box. Check out Stop TAFE Cuts HQ's favourite track Here Comes The Night.
Troy Cassar-Daley, musician
Troy is best known as a musician and songwriter, but before he became a star he studied at TAFE!
"I went to TAFE and really appreciated all the help they gave me. I never ended up as a chef, but I always had another choice!"
Catherine Martin has won four Academy Awards for her costume design, production design and art direction for Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby.
Catherine studied pattern cutting at Sydney Institute of TAFE, formerly the East Sydney Technical College.
artist and film maker
George Gittoes is an artist and film maker who has worked around the world. He was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2015 for "for enlivening the creative spirit to promote tolerance, respect and peace with justice." George studied at the St George School of Fine Art, part of Sydney TAFE.
Chantelle is probably most familliar to the general public as co-winner of the TV show The Block in 2014. Chantelle is also a milliner, who studied at Holmesglen TAFE in Victoria.
Jess Wootten, shoemaker
After initially working in industrial design for General Motors, Jess is now a second generation shoemaker, and owner and head cobbler of Wootten - a small studio and shop specialising in bespoke shoes and leather goods. Jess studied at NMIT and RMIT.
Lanie Lane, singer/songwriter
Lanie studied music at Ultimo TAFE in Sydney. From TAFE she had gone on to release two critically acclaimed albums, successfully toured internationally, and even opened for Jack White (of The White Stripes) in Sydney. Check out Stop TAFE Cuts HQ's favourite track What Do I Do?
Bridget Bodenham, ceramicist
Bridget Bodenham is a ceramicist who makes beautiful, earthy pieces - both functional and ornamental. Bridget studies at TAFE in Victoria, and now splits her time between teaching and working in her Hepburn Spring studio. You can check out here work here.
Guy is a famous Australian chef, media personality and author of several cookbooks. Guy has owned and operated Grossi Florentino one of Melbourne's most loved Italian restaurants since 1999. Guy completed his apprenticeship in commercial cookery at Box Hill TAFE in 1984.
Karla is one of a growing list of ultra-cool alumni from the Fashion Design Studio at Ultimo TAFE. She moved from Queensland to attend TAFE in Sydney noting “I was so excited but it didn’t dawn on me until I went into my first class just how lucky I was."
"My TAFE course was hands-on, practical and intelligent, and taught by experts in the field. It gave me all the skills I need to be a self-employed author."
Matt Moran is a chef, TV presenter, restaurateur and author. He studied Commerical Cookery at TAFE Northern Sydney Institute. Matt is still a strong supporter of TAFE - "if we're looking for young apprentices, if they're at TAFENSW... it's definitely going to give them the thumbs up."
Wendy's writing career started at the Gordon Institute in Geelong studying a three year course in "Vocational Writing". After a stint at the Geelong Advertiser, Wendy had a career change and became a stand-up comedian. She now curates The Hoopla, a news and opinion website "through the eyes of women".
Emma Mulholland, fashion designer
Emma studied fashion design at Ultimo TAFE. The young designer's label has blossomed with stockists around Australia and in New York, and rave reviews for her SS13/14 collection. Her bold, bright designs have been championed by the likes of Kanye West, Azealia Banks, Grimes, M.I.A. and Kimbra.
writer, musician and broadcaster
Sian has both studied and taught at TAFE. Of TAFE she says "TAFE courses are not a luxuty to be tirmmed out of existence when you're in belt-tightening mode. TAFE courses are a vital part of our education system, our economy and our culture."
Ian Kiernan, environmentalist and builder
Ian Kiernan is the Australian environmentalist behind the Clean Up Australia campaign which started in Sydney in 1989. Ian originally trained as a builder at Sydney Technical College.
Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) is one of Australia's most loved artists. He is best known for his stylised Ned Kelly series.
Sidney studied in the Department of Design & Crafts at Prahran Technical College (now part of Swinburne).
Dr James Charles, academic
Dr James Charles is an academic at Charles Sturt University and was awarded 2017 Scholar of the Year at the NAIDOC awards. Dr Charles has been conducting research on foot health. He left high school early, and was almost illiterate. After having kids, he decided to go to TAFE and redo high school. This led to University where he ended up studying podiatry. He has since completed a Masters and a PhD.
Anh Do scored 98 in the HSC and enrolled to study law at university… but he also signed up to study fine arts at TAFE. “I ended up skipping just about all my law classes so that I could attend my art classes,” he says. “It wasn’t even a close contest.” Anh then focused on his comedy career. He has since twice been a finalist in the Archibald Prize, and recently has been involved in the TV series “Anh’s Brush With Fame” where he simultaneously paints and interviews celebrities.
Joan Ross, artist
Joan Ross works across a range of mediums including drawing, painting, installation, photography, sculpture and video. Her bold and experimental practice investigates the legacy of colonialism in Australia, particularly in regard to its effect on Indigenous Australians. In 2017, she won the Sir John Sulman Prize (best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist). Joan went to Liverpool TAFE. Check out this short video where she talks about TAFE.
Robert Woodward, architect
Robert (Bob) Woodward studied manual arts at Sydney Technical High school and took lessons at East Sydney Tech while doing an apprenticeship in metallurgy. He is best known for the design of several fountains, including the El Alamein Memorial fountain in Kingscross, the Canberra Times Fountain, and a cascade at the High Court. He also competed in the 440 yard hurdles at the 1950 Empire Games!
Dion Lee, fashion designer
Dion Lee is a New York based fashion designer. Dion studied at the Fashion Design Studio at Sydney TAFE. In 2017 he won the highest accolade of the Australian fashion industry being names the Australian Fashion Laureate for 2017. Check out this video to hear from Dion about his experience at TAFE.
Giovanni Pilu, chef
Giovanni arrived in Australia at age 20 from Sardinia. By 22 he was studying at Brookvale TAFE. His restaurant Pilu at Freshwater has been serving up Sardinian and regional Italisan food for 10 years, and has been awarded 2 hats by the Good Food Guide. Giovanni puts his success down to his studies at Brookvale: "If it wasn't for TAFE... maybe I wouldn't have made it."
Jandamarra is of Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Warung descendent. He undertook both an Indigenous Art traineeship and a FIne Arts Certificate at TAFE. He blends traditional aboriginal art techniques along with his own signature contemporary portraiture. He has been an Archibald Prize finalist, and has exhibited extensively around Australia.
writer & comedian
"TAFE trained arts students are an eclectic lot, a classless community who not only add colour and entertainment to our mix, but ideas and innovation as well, with most going on to pull their weight and earn their own modest ekes."